Various Artists

Take Me Home: A Tribute to John

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Mark Kozelek's long-awaited Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver finally appeared in early 2000 on Badman Recording Company, his refuge since his contractual problems with Supreme (and that label's subsequent demise) indefinitely delayed the release of Old Ramon, the Red House Painter's putative sixth album. Badman also released two Shanti Project benefit albums that Kozelek also helped put together, as well as his solo album Rock N' Roll Singer. In the works since almost immediately after Denver's death in 1997, Take Me Home reflects Kozelek's devotion to the singer/songwriter; along with spearheading the project, he performs on a quarter of the album's songs. Red House Painters' elegiac, instrumental reading of "Fly Away" and thoughtful, plaintive "I'm Sorry" capture the gentle and scorching sides of his band, while "Around and Around," his duet with Mojave 3's Rachel Goswell, could have been recorded at a campfire, it's that mellow and intimate. Despite Kozelek's heavy involvement, Take Me Home doesn't feel like a vanity project because the other artists included on the album provide enough variety to make it into a friendly, diverse collection. Most striking, and most different from each other, are Bonnie Prince Billy's solemn, a cappella "The Eagle and the Hawk" and Tarnation and Joe Gore's spacy, spooky "Leaving on a Jet Plane." The Innocence Mission's "Follow Me" channels the sweet, naïve spirit of early-'60s folkie-pop, while Rachel Haden's "Poems, Prayers and Promises" continues the polished yet fresh direction of that dog's later work. Hannah Marcus' world-weary "Looking for Space," Low's hymnal "Back Home Again," Sunshine Club's gentle, earnest "Annie's Song," and James Hindle's equally sincere "Whispering Jesse" are some of the album's many other highlights; more "important" artists can only hope for such a loving, thoughtful tribute. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

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